Debbie Sample - A Favorite with Grandkids
When Debi Sample first learned she was going to have grandchildren, she felt bad that she wouldn't be able to chase after them and get down on the floor and play games. Her mobility is limited from multiple sclerosis and she thought the disease might form a barrier between her and the youngsters.
But as her daughter predicted, Debi has become "the cool "Gram,' the one with all the toys." Her grandchildren take turns, riding with grandma and steering her motorized wheelchair. They also ask to help run the lift that helps put her chair in the car.
"My daughter was right, "Debi said. "They think it's fun to ride with me and MS hasn't really been a problem playing with them."
This has been Debi's approach to life since being diagnosed in 1980, striving to make sure MS doesn't stop her from doing many of the things she loves. She credits Dr. Mary Ann Picone, a board-certified neurologist and the Medical Director of the MS Center at Holy Name Medical Center, with helping her maintain her lifestyle.
"I adore Dr. Picone, who's been treating me for more than 20 years, " Debi said. "She gives you so much time when you see her so you never feel like just a number. Actually, all the nurses and the entire staff at Holy Name treat you like that. They make you feel special."
This type of attention varies greatly from what she experienced when she was first diagnosed. At 25, she was visiting her parents in Virginia when she woke up with double vision. The first doctor she saw thought she was having an anxiety attack. As her symptoms increased and she sought other opinions, she was told that the whole episode might just pass. But when scans showed she had something on her brain, physicians gave her the worst case scenarios.
"I was experiencing numbness on my left side and they thought I could have had a stroke, or I might have a brain tumor or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)," Debi said. "By the time they told me I had MS, I was sort of relieved."
Today, Debi sees Dr. Picone every three months and gets an infusion in six-month intervals. She wishes some of the medications currently used in the treatment of MS were available years ago. A particularly severe MS attack in 1990 weakened the left side of her body and left her unable to walk without assistance.
"I think if I could have had some of the treatments then that are around today, I probably wouldn't have the disability I do," Debi said. "Look, I detest having MS but life is too short to let it get you down. I read up on the latest advancements in the disease and Dr. Picone is always on them already, so I have a lot of faith that I'm getting the best treatment available. And I have friends and family that are so supportive. You just have to stay strong and positive."